Caswell County Genealogy

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Vance, Zebulon Baird

Vance, Zebulon Baird

Male 1830 - 1894  (63 years)

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  • Name Vance, Zebulon Baird  [1
    Birth 13 May 1830  Vanceville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 24159 
    Death 14 Apr 1894  [1
    Burial Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I23697  Caswell County
    Last Modified 23 Sep 2023 

    Father Vance, Captain David Jr.,   b. 1792   d. 14 Jan 1844 (Age 52 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Living 
    Relationship natural 
    Family ID F10176  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Espy, Harriett Newel,   b. 11 Jun 1832   d. 3 Nov 1878 (Age 46 years) 
    Reference Number 636260 
    • U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
      Name: Zebulon Baird Vance
      Gender: Male
      Spouse Name: Harriet Newell Espey
     1. Vance, Roberty Espy,   b. 1854   d. 11 Aug 1855, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 1 year)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
     2. Vance, Charles Newel,   b. 27 Mar 1856, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 11 Sep 1922, Morganton, Burke County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 66 years)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
    +3. Vance, David Mitchell,   b. 8 Dec 1857, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 25 Oct 1894, Morganton, Burke County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 36 years)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
    +4. Vance, Zebulon Baird Jr.,   b. 22 Mar 1860, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 20 May 1926 (Age 66 years)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
     5. Vance, Thomas Malvern,   b. 6 Sep 1862, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 14 Feb 1928, Olympia, Thurston County, Washington Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 65 years)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
    Family ID F10174  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 23 Sep 2023 

    Family 2 Steele, Florence Elizabeth   bur. Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Marriage 1880 
    Reference Number 25337 
    Family ID F10175  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 23 Sep 2023 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBurial - - Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Zebulon Baird Vance
    Zebulon Baird Vance by Brady-Handy
    Vance and Davis

    Vance Parole
    Vance Parole

    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker #2
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker #2
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker #4
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker #4
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker #3
    Zebulon Baird Vance Grave Marker #3

    Zeb Vance Book
    Zeb Vance Book

  • Notes 
    • Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894)

      Zebulon Baird Vance

      Zebulon Baird Vance Gravestone

      Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894)

      Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894)

      Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894)

      Zebulon Vance Parole

      (for larger image, click on photograph)

      Zebulon Baird Vance is related to the James McConnell Smith family of this database in that a daughter of James McConnell Smith, Jane Cordelia Smith, married George Thomas Spears. Their daughter, Mamie Spears, married William Taswell Reynolds, a Baird descendant. His parents were Daniel Reynolds and Susan Adelia Tate Baird. Her grandfather, Bedent Baird was a brother of Zebulon Baird, from whom Zebulon Baird Vance descended. The Jesse Siler Smith referenced in the immediately following paragraph is a son of James McConnell Smith.

      Zebulon Baird Vance, North Carolina's Civil War governor, in a letter to his wife Harriett mentioned the wedding of Jesse Siler Smith to Maggie Graves of Yanceyville in Caswell County: "She was the girl, Vance assured his own love, Hattie, 'with whom I told you I flirted in retaliation you know.'" Source: The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Dr. Richard W. Iobst (1998) at 15.

      While Jesse Siler Smith (born 1821) was older than Zebulon Baird Vance (born 1830), the wife of Jesse Siler Smith, Margaret Isabella Graves (born 1831) was about the same age as Zebulon Baird Vance. However, in what context they were acquainted is unknown. It appears that they both married around the same year. Smith and Vance family historians often describe Jesse Siler Smith and Zebulon Baird Vance as "Asheville drinking buddies."

      On March 28, 1856, together with Alfred T. Summey, William Wallace McDowell, N. L. Neilson, and Zebulon B. Vance, Jesse Siler Smith was elected a town commissioner of Asheville. Since Vance and Smith were Whigs, the News, a Whig newspaper, exclaimed: "The Commissioners are all young, active, and energetic men, and we have no doubt will take hold of town affairs in a way calculated to promote the best interests of the community.:" Jesse Siler Smith was elected Secretary of the Commissioners.

      Source: The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Richard W. Iobst (1977), Western North Carolina Historical Association Republication (2006) at 35.

      The following is from The Heritage of Old Buncombe County, Doris Cline Ward, Editor (1981) at 84 (Article #65, "Zebulon Baird Vance" by Luther W. Shaw):

      Zebulon Baird Vance, whose handsome portrait hangs in the Superior Courtroom of Buncombe County Courthouse, was North Carolina's Civil War governor. Born on Reems Creek May 13, 1830, Vance attended Newton Academy and the University of North Carolina. He began law practice in Asheville in May 1852. Two years later, he was named Buncombe's representative to the N. C. House of Commons and during 1856-1860 served in the U. S. House of Representatives. A captain and colonel in the Confederate Army in 1861, Vance was governor of North Carolina from 1862-1865 and again in 1876. He was elected U. S. Senator from North Carolina on March 4, 1879 and served until April 14, 1894, when he died in Washington, D. C. He is buried in Asheville's Riverside Cemetery. The adjacent portrait was done in 1884 by J. A. Janus.

      Two years after Vance's death in 1894, George W. Pack donated $2,000 to help pay for a monument to Vance. By 1898 it was complete.

      Note the following from "Treasures of North Carolina Masonry: Zebulon Baird Vance," which provides:

      "Did you know Zeb Vance was buried three times, and not one time with Masonic rites? His second wife refused to allow the Masonic team to perform the rites they had rehearsed at Mount Hermon 118. Later she secretly had her husband exhumed and reburied in her Martin family’s plot nearby in Riverside Cemetery. When Zeb's sons found out, they took their stepmother to court, got a judgment, had their Dad dug up again and reburied him where he started out. Brethren figure Zeb is still exploding with laughter at the thought that even in death he was a traveling man."

      Here is another version of the story:

      Vance was a member of one of North Carolina's most important Masonic families, and he was near Masons and active in the Craft most of his 65 years. On February 4, 1853, at the age of 23, Vance petitioned Mt. Hermon Lodge #118 in Asheville. He received both the Second and Third Degrees on June 20, 1853. His Mt. Hermon Lodge Brothers M. Patton, I. W. Dunn, and Joshia Roberts comprised the investigating committee. Vance was active in Mount Hermon Lodge, serving as Secretary, Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, and Junior Warden pro tem. Records show he was absent from meetings "only a few times" over many years, and he helped revise his Lodge’s bylaws.

      Besides being governor of North Carolina, from 1879 until his death, Zeb served in the United States Senate. He died April 14, 1894, a day when just about everything in North Carolina stopped. To the people of a state who dearly loved him, the only thing Zeb ever did wrong was die. On April 18, 1894, Bros. E. I. Holmes, W. R. Heston, M. W.Robertson, W. F. Randolph, and 129 other Freemasons, including Bro. Sam Wittkowsky, walked in the escort procession carrying Brother Vance to Riverside Cemetery, Asheville. There a crowd of 10,000 had gathered despite a heavy downpour. Strangely, there was no Masonic funeral ceremony. All knew that America had lost a mighty champion and friend.

      At high noon on Thursday, April 14, 2005, 44 Masons and guests met on the 111th anniversary of Zeb's death to carry out a long overdue (and proper) Masonic burial service for our esteemed brother. When Brother Vance died in 1894, he was not properly buried with Masonic rights (as all Masonic brothers should be). He was dug up and reburied, then dug up again and reburied back in the previous spot . . . all without a proper Masonic burial! It is a testament to Brother Zeb's legacy that 111 years after his death, this oversight still mattered to his N.C. Masonic brethren and now, his final resting place is adorned with a marker acknowledging that he is "A HERO AMONG MASONS."

      Source: Famous Members of Mount Hermon Lodge #118.

      Vance Birthplace

      This pioneer farmstead, tucked in the Reems Creek Valley, features the birthplace of Zebulon Baird Vance. The five-room log house--reconstructed around original chimneys--and its outbuildings are furnished to evoke the period from 1795- 1840. Vance's political career as Civil War officer, North Carolina governor, and U.S. senator is traced at the homestead. Also included is the history of Vance's famous mountain family.

      One of the dominant personalities of the South for nearly half a century, Zeb Vance served in public office for 30 years. Though he was a lawyer whose keen humor, intellect, and eloquent manner of speaking made him successful, his real interest was always politics. Characterized by a quality that tied him to the common people of the mountain coves, Zeb Vance was first elected to public office at the age of 24. He served in the N.C. House of Commons (legislative assembly of the day) and the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected governor three times.

      Zebulon Baird Vance (13 May 1830-14 Apr. 1894), Confederate soldier, governor of North Carolina, congressman, and U.S. senator, was the third child and second son of David and Mira Baird Vance. He was born in the old homestead in Buncombe County, on Reems Creek, about twelve miles north of Asheville. After attending the neighborhood schools, he enrolled in 1843 (at age thirteen) in Washington College, near Jonesboro in eastern Tennessee, but withdrew the next year on the death of his father, who left a widow and seven children. In search of better educational opportunities Mrs. Vance moved to Asheville and put her children in school there. In 1850 Vance read law briefly under John W. Woodfin and in July 1851 arrived at The University of North Carolina to continue his legal studies. The next year, after being licensed to practice in the state's county courts, he returned to Asheville and was immediately elected solicitor for Buncombe County. In 1853 he was admitted to practice in the superior courts. Yet law never brought forth his best endeavors. For Vance law was primarily preparation for politics, which was his passion. Success in the courtroom was usually the result of wit, humor, boisterous eloquence, and clever retorts, not knowledge of the law. He understood people better than he did judicial matters.

      Vance's health began to fail in 1889 with the removal of one of his eyes. He died five years later of a stroke at his home in Washington. He was buried in Asheville. Vance was married twice. His first wife, Harriette Espy of Quaker Meadows, Burke County, whom he married on 3 Aug. 1853, bore him four sons: Robert Espy (b. 1854, died young), Charles Noel (b. 1856), David Mitchell (b. 1857), and Zebulon Baird, Jr. (b. 1860). [1880 US Federal Census lists a fifth son, Thomas Vance, born c.1864] She died in 1878. In 1880 he married a widow, Florence Steele Martin of Louisville, Ky., who survived him. They had no children.

      Source: Biography of Zebulon Baird Vance.

      Zebulon B. Vance was the son of David Vance and Mira (Baird) Vance and was born at Vanceville on Reems Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina, May 13, 1830. He attended school at Newton Academy and at the University of North Carolina and, in May, 1852, began the practice of law in Asheville. He was in 1854 a member of the North Carolina House of Commons and in 1856 and 1860 he became the representative of Western North Carolina in the United States House of Representatives. He joined the Confederate army. In 1862 he became Governor of North Carolina and continued to be such until the end of the war. In 1876 he again was made Governor of that State and in 18'19 became United States Senator from North Carolina. This position he held until his death on April 14, 1894. He was buried in Asheville. Two monuments in North Carolina have been erected to his memory, a granite shaft on the Public Square in Asheville and a bronze statue on the Capitol Square in Raleigh.

      Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 128-129.

      Type: Collection
      ID: MS030.001A
      Date: 1891/04/07 to 1930/12/09
      Title: Vance, Zebulon Baird Birthplace Collection 1891-1957 (Bulk 1943-1957)
      Description: Typed copy of letter written by R. B. Davidson, Shelbyville, Tenn., addressed "Dear Theodore" and dated April 7, 1891. Letter is in response to a request by addressee for information for a sketch to be written about David Vance. Writer gives information concerning family history, including a quote by Zebulon Vance to the writer. Typed letter, hand signature by Edmund B. Norville addressed to Mr. William B. Williamson of Asheville, NC. and dated December 9, 1930 from Murphy, NC., ten pages. Provides birth, marriage and death dates of William Mitchell Davidson and Betsy Vance.
      Source: Pack Memorial Library North Carolina Collection

      Note: The "Theodore" addressee could be Theodore Fulton Davidson (1845-1931). Initially the R. B. Davidson was thought to be Robert Brank Vance Davidson, but the dates do not work as he died in 1871. However, his grandfather was David Vance (c.1745-1813), who married Priscilla Brank (1756-1836).

      For another brief biography of Zebulon Baird Vance see Sketches of Prominent Living North Carolinians, Jerome Dowd (1888) at 7-20, which includes a biographical sketch written by Kemp P. Battle, published in the University [of North Carolina] Magazine in March 1887.

      See also: "The Hog" by Bill Nye (The Clinton Weekly Age, 20 September 1862).


      (for larger image, click on photograph)


      The mystique of Gombroon--some spell it Gombroom--is still in the mountain air. But the reality, according to Rick Patton, Secretary of Black Mountain 663, is long gone. Senator Zeb Vance and second-wife Florence summered at their unique retreat in the mountains which Zeb revered throughout his life. The couple lovingly discovered and improved the place eight miles north of Black Mountain Station on the Western North Carolina Railroad. Considered modern in architectural style, it would be dubbed Victorian today. The photo published here appeared in Life of Zebulon B. Vance by Clement Dowd. Like Vance, it speaks for itself.

      The huge house was surrounded by lofty peaks and dense forest. There were vineyards, orchards, gardens, outbuildings, a spring house and a dairy-all the comforts of an immodest summer home for the Vances when they could break away from their active Senate and social life in Washington. Brother Patton reports: "Before the City of Asheville completely stopped people from being on the watershed property where Gombroon once stood, I had the chance to view the remains of the once magnificent structure. Nothing left but a few blocks and some rocks of what was the foundation, unfortunately. It is about 50 yards from the water at full level of the reservoir."

      Source: "Treasures of North Carolina Masonry: Zebulon Baird Vance"

      Vance is A Prominent Figure in WNC History by Dorothy Gillam Bryant

      At the time the Vance Monument was erected on Pack Square in 1898, it was said that Zebulon Baird Vance was the most admired and beloved statesman in North Carolina's history. He was born May 13, 1830, in the house built by his grandfather, David Vance I, on Reems Creek north of Asheville. His family was among the first settlers in Beaverdam Valley. Zebulon was one of the eight children of David II and Mira Baird Vance, daughter of Zebulon Baird. Both grandfathers were prominent in Buncombe County. Zeb’s older brother, Robert, wrote about the Vance name, stating their ancestry was from Normandy: Devaux in France, Vaux in Scotland and England and Vance in Ireland.

      Zebulon's native wit was owed to the Baird family. He was said to be witty and humorous, had abundant vitality and love of fun. He had great respect for sacred things. He was at ease anywhere and in any company. His personality was not only strong and attractive but also overwhelming. He was exceedingly handsome of form and feature - nearly 6 feet tall. In 1853, Vance married Harriette Newell Espy. They had four sons: Charles Noel, David Mitchell, Zebulon, Jr., and Thomas M. The young lawyer was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1859, where he served three terms. When the Civil War broke out, Vance became captain of the Rough and Ready Guards. Eventually he was elected colonel of the NC 26th Regiment. In 1862, Vance became the wartime governor of North Carolina. He was re-elected in 1876 by a large majority. His wife and his mother both died in 1878. In 1880, he was again elected to the United States Senate, and he also remarried that year to Florence Stede Martin of Kentucky.

      Vance remained in the Senate until his death April 14, 1894, after a period of declining health. The funeral was held in Asheville, and he was buried in Riverside Cemetery. The homeplace of Zebulon Baird Vance is still preserved and maintained by the N.C. Department of Archives and History. Vance also had a home call Gombroon in the mountains of North Carolina, "eight miles north of Black Mountain Station, on the Western North Carolina Railroad." Most of the information here is taken from "Life of Zebulon B. Vance" by Clement Dowd, 1897. The book has been out of print, but because of its importance, it has been reproduced. This biography details his life in the Senate and as NC Governor as well as a personal glimpse of the man since the author was his contemporary. Many of his speeches are printed in the book.

      Source: (Asheville, North Carolina), 8 December 2007.

      ASHEVILLE - For more than a century, the Vance Monument has marked the center of town. Buildings in Pack Square Park have come and gone. Roadways have changed. The square itself has become bigger. When it was built in 1896, before high-rise businesses dominated the cityscape, the 50-foot obelisk was a towering structure, meant to be seen from the distance, something to reflect the far-reaching influence of Zebulon Vance, a former governor and U.S. congressman. Encompassed by Pack Square Park, the monument has watched over markets, circuses, parades, street preachers, protests and celebrations of all kinds.

      Its prominence has also sometimes raised concerns because of Vance's ties to slavery. The Civil War-era politician owned slaves, just as he owned a reputation for preaching compassion for other marginalized people. As the city ramps up for a $126,000 restoration of the monument built in his honor - almost all of it privately funded - some local activists and politicians are pushing for a more complete picture. They want recognition of African-American history near the marker in Pack Square Park.

      "Communities tell the world what they value and what parts of their history matter by what they display with public monuments," said Sasha Mitchell, a community and family historian, who also serves as chairwoman of the city's African-American Heritage Commission. "In the past, obviously, communities were deciding what was important, and it was white people in power. All the black people around were marginalized, but that's different now and Asheville's monuments should reflect that," she said.

      Activists and historians have petitioned the Public Art Board to garner support for something that could be as large as a statue or as small a plaque, Mitchell said. The point is the narrative should be corrected, she added. Since announcing the initiative and posting a petition online in February, more than 1,000 print and digital signatures have been collected. The goal is to obtain at least 3,000 signatures - a critical mass to support the project before moving forward, said Deborah Miles, director of the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville. Carolina Jews for Justice, Masonic Lodge Venus #62, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Mountain People's Assembly are among the groups sponsoring the cause.

      Long home to the courthouse, the area near Pack Square Park is likely the spot where slaves were sold and traded locally - the same way people would sell horses, wagons or bags of corn, said Miles, who in 2013 partnered with the Register of Deeds Office to uncover and digitize property records documenting the salve trade in Western North Carolina. She points to an old Asheville newspaper clipping advertising that slaves from the estate of John Smith will be sold on the steps of the courthouse. "The records are there," said Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger. "It is far past the time for us to recognize the contributions that early African-Americans contributed to Buncombe County."

      "All these prominent streets in downtown - Patton, Vance, Woodfin - many of the monuments, they are named after slave owners. It's time we pay tribute to those who actually built those roads and built the infrastructure of Asheville."

      The Vance Monument

      One of the city's most iconic landmarks, the Vance Monument is modeled after the Washington Monument. It is one few Civil War monuments in the South that is of an abstract thing, said Rob Neufeld, a local author and history columnist who writes for the Citizen-Times. The fact that it is not of a person, a soldier, a horse, or some kind of object that symbolized the war is significant, he said. "It is not, therefore, a symbol of slavery in the South; it's a monument to honor Vance," Neufeld said.

      Vance, born in 1830, remains one of North Carolina's most noteworthy politicians, said Kerby Price, a historic interpreter at the Vance Birthplace in Weaverville. He also owned slaves. During his nearly 40 years of leadership, the statesmen never publicly denounced the practice, she said. Historically, the area around Vance Monument wasn't a significant place for African-Americans, Neufeld added. "It was segregated, a time of heated racial tensions. Black people weren't on the square."

      That's part of the reason it's important to add a marker there, Mitchell said. Reclaiming Vance Monument will give it a different, fuller meaning, she said. Adding more about Vance's nuanced life and what happened in that part of town will make the monument a teaching space, Mitchell said. "There is a time for preservation and a time when you call for modification," she said. "To recognize something so ugly is certainly better than white washing what happened there and white washing what that place represents." It's important that young people see how African-Americans contributed to Asheville's history, Viola Spells said after a meeting of the African-American Heritage Commission Thursday. It builds self-esteem and shows what the community can do.

      There are always going to be historical figures that provoke controversy, said Chris Roberts, the Civil War re-enactor who is leading efforts to restore Vance Monument with the nonprofit 26th North Carolina Regiment. "What you have to be able to do is see it as a whole picture and evaluate their life and achievements as a whole and use that to measure whether or not there is anything to commemorate," he said.

      Vance the Statesmen

      Vance is often lauded for what were then progressive views and for his ability to bring resources to his native mountain counties, which were very much isolated at the time. Of great pride, he helped build the Western North Carolina Railroad. Vance is also commonly celebrated for bringing the state together, despite the hardship of the war. A lawyer, he served twice as the governor. He was first elected to the state House of Commons at the age of 24 and would later serve in the U.S. Congress. Initially a unionist, Vance became a supporter of the confederate cause in 1861 when fighting broke out at Fort Sumter. He then went to Raleigh and organized the "Rough and Ready Guards." That same year he was elected as commander of the 26th North Carolina regiment. Vance returned to politics shortly after. At 32, he was elected governor of what then was a divided state.

      He was arrested when the war ended in 1865, but was later pardoned and elected to the U.S. Senate. Federal leaders refused to seat him in 1870, however, protesting his slave-owning past and recent arrest. The state welcomed its defeated leader back home, electing him again as governor in 1876. They sent him to the U.S. Senate once more in 1879. This time he was seated. He served three terms and was beginning his fourth when he died. Thousands attended funeral services held in Raleigh and Washington, D.C. When his body was returned to Asheville, historians note a remarkable crowd gathered not far from where the monument stands today to bid him goodbye.

      Vance the Slave Owner

      The role of slavery is not often discussed in articles about Vance. An entry on him in LEARN NC, an online digital textbook set up by UNC Chapel Hill's School of Education to share innovative practices with teachers and students around the world, discusses Vance's slave ownership only once. The mention is made in a paragraph detailing his denial from the U.S. Senate after the war. "... Radical Republicans in charge of the federal government refused to seat him, protesting his history of owning slaves and of still being under probation," it says. Known for his oration, Vance is often praised for his famous speech, "The Scattered Nation," where he calls on society to demonstrate compassion and tolerance for people of the Jewish faith.

      Very much a product of his time, Vance never extends this notion to black people, said Price, the historic interpreter at the Vance Birthplace. "Communities tell the world what they value and what parts of their history matter by what they display with public monuments." Even after the Civil War, he argued that black people shouldn't have the right to vote because they wouldn't know how to vote. He wanted them to be cared for, he was supportive of teachers' colleges for blacks and whites, but it was very much a "paternalistic condescension," she said.

      The Vance Birthplace, a historic marker in the Reems Creek Valley in the town of Weaverville, has no pictures of the family's slaves and very few records documenting the presence of black people on the pioneer farmstead. Despite this, Price says, it is hard not to talk about slavery when she talks about the Vance family. "They are such an interwoven part of the story," she said. Vance's grandfather came to the area with three slaves and Census records demonstrate that at times the family owned as many as 18. Slaves took care of the children; they did the cooking and the weaving. Vance was raised by a black woman named Venus, Price continued. When his father passed away, many of their slaves were auctioned off to help settle his debt. "Venus carried Zeb's sister to the auction block and said, 'Whoever takes me, takes my child.' Zeb's mother bid one dollar and it was not contested," she said. Slaves allowed Vance to spend much of his formative years reading the classics and learning, she said. He didn't have to work the way that kids and families without slaves did, Price said. Certainly, he had chores, but he wasn't fetching water or working on the farm like other, poorer boys his age.

      Families would pass down slaves the same way they would pass down heirlooms. Census records and the slave schedule from 1860 show Vance had at least six slaves. Black people's lives weren't recorded the same way and documentation of their existence is hard to find, Price said. It depends a lot on the position one had in the family, she said. One slave of the Vance family, named Aggy, was allowed to send messages to her friends and family working for relatives in other areas. Even though it was illegal to teach slaves how to read and write, Vance's mother would write notes on her behalf. Other slaves are only known as numbers on records, Price said.


      People often think that slavery wasn't present in Western North Carolina because there aren't huge farms or labor needs as there were in other parts of the South, Miles said. :They have this image that slavery is about the cotton and rice fields and we don't have that here. People are always surprised to find out that our slaves did factory work, railroad building, gold mining and tourism," she said. Darin Waters, an African-American professor of history at UNC Asheville from Western North Carolina, specifically chose this region for his research. "These were obviously my ancestors, who at the time they were living could not voice their opinion in a way that they would be heard - could not express they were present, that they were human beings," he said. This is the time to honor them, to rethink the way history is recorded and how society tributes its leaders, Waters added. It has been 150 years since the Civil War ended. "We can now reflect on that period in a different way," he said. April 23 marks the sesquicentennial? of the Stonesman's Raid in Western North Carolina. That day signifies the liberation of black people and also marks a time when white people were terrorized and shamed, Miles said.

      The way we talk about American history matters, she added. It has to be noted that slavery existed as this great thing for some white people and this awful thing for all black people, she said. Unlike monuments, history, as it has been told, is not set in stone, said Waters, paying homage to American social theorist and sociologist Charles Lemert. Part of progress is revisiting what happened and telling the story again and again until it is right, Waters said. Then, he quoted Lemert: "The world belongs to the living, to the dead and those yet to come."

      Learn More

      For more information about slavery in Western North Carolina, visit UNC Asheville's Center for Diversity Education online exhibit, "An Unmarked Trail: Stories from African-Americans in Buncombe County from 1850 to 1950" at To sign the online petition in support of a marker recognizing African-American history near the Vance Monument in Pack Square Park, go to square-to-recognize-and-honor-the-contributions-of-african-americans-to-buncombe-county.

      The Vance Birthplace is at 911 Reems Creek Road in Weaverville. For more information about visiting, call 828-645-6706.

      Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (13 March 2015)

      "Rough and Ready Guards" Members


      1. William Gudger
      2. James M. Smith
      3. Perry Gastow
      4. William Garrison
      5. Riley Powers
      6. Governor Zeb B. Vance (1830-1894)
      7. David M. Gudger
      8. P. J. Pittillo
      9. Alfred Walton
      10. J. J. White
      11. John Step
      12. Jim Hughey
      13. Bacchus Westall
      14. Jesse M. Green
      15. Capt. James M. Gudger
      16. Wesley Hicks (negro bodyguard)
      17. Gay Williams
      18. Thomas Brooks
      19. Capt. J. B. Baird
      20. Merritt Stevens
      21. Alfred Hunter
      22. William Hunter

      When the North Carolina ordinance of secession was passed May 1861, Vance was already a captain in Raleigh commanding the company he had raised. The company was known as the "Rough and Ready Guards" and Vance and his men soon became part of the Fourteenth Regiment. Subsequently in August he was elected colonel of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina. Colonel Vance led his men in the field for thirteen months and the Regiment distinguished themselves at New Bern in March of 1862 and at Richmond in July of that same year. Governor of North Carolina.

      Refusing all overtures to be a candidate for the Confederate Congress Vance raised a company of "Rough and Ready Guards" and on 4 May 1861 marched off to war with a captain's commission. By June the "Guards" had become Company F, Fourteenth North Carolina Regiment, and were on duty in Virginia. In August Vance was elected colonel of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina, which he ably led in battle at New Bern in March 1862 and shortly afterwards in the Seven Days fighting before Richmond.

      On July 5, 1865, ex-Confederate Governor Zebulon Baird Vance was paroled on his honor after imprisonment at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. As the end of the Civil War unfolded in North Carolina, Vance played an important role. Fleeing west in advance of General William T. Sherman’s army, Vance stopped in Greensboro and met with Confederate General Joseph Johnston. When Johnston traveled to Charlotte to meet with Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Vance followed. However, Vance returned to Greensboro after agreeing to have no further obligations to the Confederacy.

      After relinquishing his ties to the Confederacy, Vance contacted Union General John Schofield and offered to surrender himself. Schofield declined to arrest him, saying he had no orders to do so. Vance informed Schofield that he would return to his home in Statesville. Vance’s stay in Statesville was short-lived. He on May 4 only to be arrested on the orders of General Ulysses S. Grant on May 13. By May 20, he was in Washington.

      While he was imprisoned, his wife’s health, usually fragile, took a bad turn. Provisional Governor W.W. Holden sent a telegram on July 4 noting her ill health and asking for Vance’s release. After the war, Vance practiced law in Charlotte. By terms of the Fourteenth Amendment he was prevented from taking the U.S. Senate seat to which he was elected in 1870, but he worked behind the scenes to develop the Conservative party until he was eligible for office in 1872. Elected governor again in 1876, Vance vacated that office with two years left in his term in 1879 to join the U.S. Senate. He would serve there until his death in 1894.

      Related Resources:
      Resources related to the Civil War from across DNCR
      Images of the Civil War from the State Archives
      The Civil War on NCpedia
      The Civil War digital collection of the State Archives and State Library, including dozens of items related to Vance
      North Carolina as a Civil War Battleground and the Papers of Zebulon Baird Vance, Volumes One, Two and Three from N.C. Historical Publications

      Source: NC History Today (5 July 2016)

      It was only 22 years ago that there was a stage coach running between Old Fort and Asheville. The first train to Asheville came to Biltmore which was the terminus of the road. At first thought it would seem that there are many things in Asheville that would furnish much interest to those who are particularly fond of recalling and studying the conditions of early days. In the last edition of the Sunday Gazette a history of the court houses of Asheville was given. The story revealed the fact that within a little over 100 years five court houses had been built. This will give the reader somewhat of an idea of the growth of Asheville for hardly a court house in the state is less than 50 years old and in many instances they are the remodeling of old structures. It seems to have always been the policy of the citizens of this place to build anew instead of adding to and remodeling.

      To those who think that they have seen buildings that can be classed as landmarks, investigate a little and they will find that their suspicions were not well founded. There are several buildings in the city that the writer learned the history of since their dilapidation gave them the appearance of being extremely old. It was found that poor construction was generally the cause of the aged looking exterior. A little building that is point out to strangers and excites interest is the shoe shop in Spruce street, just around the corner from College street. It formerly stood on the corner where the First Baptist church building now stands and was then the law office of Senator Zebulon B. Vance.

      Source: "Asheville A New City, And Has Few Landmarks," Asheville Daily Gazette, Saturday, 19 July 1902.

      Asheville Has Few Landmarks 1902

      On September 12, 1925, prominent jurist William Alexander Hoke died. Born in Lincolnton in 1851, Hoke attended Lincolnton Male Academy and later studied law under Chief Justice Richmond Pearson at Richmond Hill. He was admitted to the bar in 1872 and was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1889.

      Hoke's career on the bench began when he was elected in 1890 as judge for the Superior Court. He was elected as an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1904, and served continuously until he was appointed chief justice in 1924 upon the death of Walter Clark. He resigned in March 1925 due to failing health.

      Hoke regarded as the high point of his life his part in chairing the commission to secure for the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., a statue of his friend, former Governor Zebulon B. Vance. He delivered the presentation address when the statue was dedicated in 1916. It is said that Hoke was sitting in a chair at Rex Hospital telling his doctor about that day when he died suddenly of a heart attack.

      "Zeb Vance found his value in Reems Creek" by Rob Neufeld (Asheville Citizen-Times, 1 July 2019)

      When David Vance, grandfather of future governor Zebulon Vance, moved to Reems Creek in the late 1780s, he was one of several settlers with Revolutionary War pasts who were looking to be part of what he considered an ideal community. That involved a large family, a working farm, a nearby church, a water powered mill, and some kind of school and slaves. The condition of slaves lives and of the lives of freedmen, before and after Emancipation, varied greatly. The Vances perpetrated a big family model, which involved kindness and love as well as paternalism and bondage. When David Vance was dying in 1813 he expressed in his will the desire that his two families of slaves, headed by Richard and Aggy and Jo and Leah, be given "full liberty." "Full liberty" meant, in that time and place, freedom to choose their households, to travel, and to not worry about losing their children. The State slave code required approval by a county court for emancipating the slaves. It also required that freedmen carry and present documents when they were away from their homes. The Vance's "liberated" slaves had to have tickets from their owners as permission to travel. All slaves and freedmen had to fear white men who were given license to shoot runaways.

      In 1844, when Zeb was 14, his father David Vance Jr. stipulated in his will that Zeb's mammy Venus along with her child be put up for sale on the slave block. His wife, Mira, opposed her husband and maintained the family promise. She and Venus conspired to fake Venus's mental deficiency and Mira bought her for a dollar. Venus successfully pleaded to hold on to her baby. Zeb's brother Robert recalled how Venus had conspired with Zeb in his inveterate mischievousness even as a child. One time, travelers stopped at the Vance home and asked little Zeb for a fill-up of their liquor bottle. Zeb went to "Mammy Venus and got a bottle of potliquor (liquid left behind after boiling collard greens) and gave it to the travellers," Clement Dowd quoted Robert in his 1897 biography of Zebulon Vance. "He charged them nothing, but made them promise not to open it till they got out of sight." He then trailed behind and spied on their consternation. Wealthy vacationers at the Vance's Lapland Hotel (later Warm Springs) took pleasure in telling how young Zeb, envying the sales success of flower girls there, put on a dress and earned big tips.

      Back at the homestead in Reems Creek, Zeb engaged with the farm animals. The geese learned, when Zeb was out and about, they no longer had command of the yard. Once, he frightened an old gander to death, according to Ruth Szittya in her fictionalized biography "Man to Match the Mountains: The Childhood of Zebulon Baird Vance." Other animals had free reign. A brick in the Vance's sitting room fireplace immortalizes an embedded turkey footprint; and one in the kitchen fireplace, two cat paws. Cats caught corn-eating mice. Better than a housecat, however, was a black snake, which reached into mouse habitats more easily than a cat and which precluded the colonization of the house by a poisonous snake.

      A smooth, slanted groove in a corner brick in the Vance's kitchen fireplace indicates knife sharpening and elicits an image of a turkey's fate. As winter approached, drovers took turkeys, pigs, and cattle to southeastern markets along the Buncombe Turnpike, completed just a couple of years before Zebulon Vance's birth. A holiday dinner in the cold months at the Vance table might have included turkey with gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, cooked apples, cornbread and pie, as "The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery" indicates.

      Winters required defense against cold in the house despite the central fireplace. Mira's connection to distant markets via her brother's Bedent and Zebulon Baird, pioneer merchants, provided her with a top-of-the-line brass bed warmer.

      Significant Artifact

      Winters were much colder two centuries ago. Rivers froze. In 1835, a fourhorse wagon crossed the French Broad River on ice. Pioneer residents, in their homes, devised ways to turn survival into luxury. A brass and wood bed warmer at the Zebulon Vance Birthplace in Reems Creek speaks of that era; and the Vance bed warmer is lucky to have survived time. In the 1930s, a couple of decades before the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources acquired the Vance property, most of the Vance's early 19th century family possessions had been sold to an antiques dealer. Since then, only a few of those artifacts have found their way back. A bed warmer had been a prized object in pioneer days. Not every family had one. Most wrapped a heated brick in cloth and laid it between bed covers; or fetched a stone, though not one from a creek, which might explode. When five-year-old Zebulon went to his bedroom at night in the winter of 1835, he left the downstairs hearth and endured the chill as he anticipated the bed warming ritual. The new warmer's brass pan would have been filled with coals and then sprinkled with salt to keep down sulfurous smells before being passed between bed sheets in a graceful arcing motion. Then Zeb jumped in bed. More delicious than a room kept at 70 is a toasty, comfy cocoon in cold air.

      The Vances provided their beds with goose down comforters and mattresses, a Scots-Irish preference. Kate Carter, program specialist at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, told me that it took 15 pounds of goose down to fill a mattress. Consequently, the owners of such mattresses would have refreshed the stuffing infrequently and would have suffered with bugs, which might account for the German preference for disposable straw tick mattresses.

      Reading by candlelight and education were essential parts of Zebulon's childhood, given a boost by a tragic event. Zeb's uncle, Dr. Robert Vance, was killed in a duel, and young Zeb inherited his vast library of law, medicine, classics, and theology. Only one volume of that library remains at the site, "The History of Redemption" by the apocalyptic Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards warned against treasuring material things for "the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever, and my navigation from generation to generation."

      Asheville Archives: The three burials of Zebulon Vance
      Mountain Xpress
      Posted on May 30, 2021 by Thomas Calder

      If you live in Buncombe County, you're probably familiar with the controversies surrounding the legacy of former North Carolina governor and outspoken white supremacist Zebulon Vance and the recent decision to remove the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. But how familiar are you with the dispute surrounding Vance’s final resting place in Riverside Cemetery?

      The controversy began shortly after his April 14, 1894, death, when The Asheville Daily Citizen reported in its June 7, 1894, edition that Vance's second wife, Florence Steele Martin Vance, had removed the former North Carolina governor's body from its original plot "to the spot on the highest part of Riverside cemetery."

      At the time, Florence had visions of a monument to her late husband placed at the site of his new burial (as opposed to its eventual 1898 placement in Pack Square). The problem, however, was Zebulon's grown children claimed no foreknowledge of their stepmother's plans and disapproved of her actions.

      On June 11, 1894, The Asheville Daily Citizen informed its readers that the former governor's son Charles N. Vance had had his father's body once again disinterred and relocated to its original plot. Furthermore, the paper reported, "Special officers Sam and Howell have been guarding the grave day and night[.]"

      Included in the article was a letter Charles wrote to the public, condemning his stepmother's decision and decrying "the opening of the casket … for what purpose we do not know."

      Charles continued:

      "This violation of a sacred obligation was to me so revolting that I felt that it was my imperative duty to the memory of my dead father to replace the remains in the original place. This has been done and I trust and pray they may there remain in peace. Sad as has been this duty it was rendered necessary by the promise I repeatedly made my father. It is also humiliating and mortifying to me that all this has occurred and this publication made necessary, but I see no escape from it."

      Part of Charles's promise to his late father was to bury Zebulon next to Harriette Vance - Charles's mother and Zebulon's first wife, who died in 1878. Interestingly, because Harriette's death occurred before the 1885 development of Riverside Cemetery, her body remained interred at a separate site, although a plot for her remains had been purchased at Riverside Cemetery.

      In yet another strange twist, Charles did not realize at the time of his June 11 letter that his mother had not yet been relocated to Riverside - a point Florence raised in her own letter, first published on June 17, 1894, by The Observer in Raleigh (and subsequently reprinted in the June 18, 1894, edition of The Asheville Daily Citizen).

      Undertaker's response:

      On June 14, 1894, The Asheville Daily Citizen featured a short letter from J.H. McConnell, the undertaker who participated in the initial relocation of Zebulon Vance's remains. Though unidentified in Charles N. Vance's June 11 letter denouncing the move, McConnell still felt compelled to defend his actions, writing:

      "As the undertaker employed by Mrs. Vance to remove Senator Vance's remains to the new lot, I will say that the body was moved with as much care and respect as any body was ever moved, and was not interfered with in any respect.

      "As to the opening of the casket, I will say that I simply removed the wooden cap - not the glass at all - exposing the face to view (not to the air) a few seconds. This was done with the utmost reverence and care and at Mrs. Vance’s request."

      In her missive, Florence defended her actions, claiming she'd received permission from her late husband's surviving siblings to relocate his body. She also asserted that Zebulon "often expressed his determination to leave his [first] wife where she was buried, in the Presbyterian church, as he thought she would have preferred."

      At the end of her letter to the paper, Florence declared:

      "I shall most certainly not disturb his rest again, or appeal to the law for what I supposed all civilized people conceded - the right of a man's wife to have her husband properly buried. The unsuitableness of the present place is apparent."

      Enraged by his stepmother's claims, Charles penned a response, printed in the June 22, 1894, edition of The Asheville Daily Citizen. In it he refuted her claims and reasserted his own, with a particular emphasis on his father's final wishes.

      "The remains of my mother have never been removed to the family plot in Riverside cemetery at Asheville, but my father had so frequently talked with me about it that I was confident it had been done," he wrote, explaining his earlier confusion. "My mother's remains will be placed by his side at the first convenient opportunity."

      Noting his displeasure in the ongoing public dispute, Charles added, "I hope my father's friends throughout the State will understand and appreciate my position in this, to me, most unhappy controversy, and pardon the earnestness and filial affection which impel to me strive to carry out his wishes and often expressed desire."

      According to Joshua Darty, director of the Riverside Cemetery, Harriette's remains were relocated to the plot adjacent to Zebulon, shortly thereafter.

      Charles died in 1922, joining the family plot. Two years later, Florence departed as well. She, too, is interred at Riverside Cemetery, albeit inside the Martin family plot.

      Long Hunt

      In 1871, when North Carolina Governor Holden was impeached, convicted, and removed from office after a 44-day trial, Zebulon Vance said:

      "It was the longest hunt after the poorest hide that I ever saw."

      The Herald-Sun (Durham, North Carolina), 29 May 1955, Sunday, Page 35.

      1880 United States Federal Census
      Name: Zebulon B. Vance
      Home in 1880: Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina
      Age: 52
      Estimated birth year: abt 1828
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relation to Head of Household: Self (Head)
      Father's birthplace: North Carolina
      Mother's birthplace: North Carolina
      Occupation: U. S. Senator
      Marital Status: Widower
      Race: White
      Gender: Male
      Household Members: Name Age
      Zebulon B. Vance 52
      Z. B. Vance 18
      Thos. Vance 16
      C. N. Vance 24
      Kate T. Vance 20

      1880 United States Federal Census
      Name: Zebulon B. Vance
      Home in 1880: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia
      Age: 50
      Estimated birth year: abt 1830
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Relation to Head of Household: Boarder
      Occupation: Senator From N.C.
      Marital Status: Widower
      Race: White
      Gender: Male
      Household Members: Name Age
      Sarah Hutchins 46
      Zebulon B. Vance 50

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Asheville and Buncombe County, Forster Alexander Sondley and Theodore Fulton Davidson (1922).

    2. Details: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 750.